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Cuisine: Italian | Format: Café-style casual dining | Location: Road no. 45, Jubilee Hills | Alcohol: No | IQ’s eco-friendliness score: 4/5
When a friend told us we should check out ‘Zza Bar, we didn’t know what to expect (the name sounded vaguely Middle-Eastern to me). But we were curious, because it was vegetarian and because it was one of the very few pet-friendly places we’d heard about in Hyderabad. Visions of eating a good meal with our little rascal in attendance appeared before our eyes. Of course, he’s not nearly well-behaved enough to take to a restaurant, but one can dream.
We had our doubts, initially. But once our food arrived, everything changed!
I digress. We made our way to ‘Zza Bar, and it was only when we got there that we realized that ‘Zza was short for ‘pizza’. There was an ‘Aaaah, now I get it’ moment! But I confess we had our doubts, initially. For one, it was a tiny place, and we hadn’t had great experiences with small places like this. Secondly, though we like pizza, we aren’t raving fans like some people we know. But once our food arrived, everything changed! ‘Zza Bar is now our go-to place for pizza and cheesecake.
Homely, casual and intimate
The décor of the place is modest without being cheap, a café-style setup perfect for a quick bite. It’s got both indoor and outdoor seating, with the outdoor area being bigger (and more popular). There’s space for about 12 outside, depending on whether the small tables are set up individually or as a group. The little wooden folding tables and chairs and the potted plants make the area feel like a small oasis off the busy Road no. 45.
The indoor arrangement is a little cramped, with three tables for two lined up against one side, and bar stools lined up at the service counter. But the whole thing is dominated by the beautiful wood-fired oven in the corner, which is where most of the magic happens. Unfortunately, even though the oven is lovely to look at (and look into), it makes the indoor space a little too warm for comfort.
But if you’re sitting outside on a cool evening, the food and the ambience almost make you forget you’re in Hyderabad.
Food created with simple ingredients and lots of flavour
There are lots and lots of pizza places in Hyderabad, but I’ll wager you won’t find one that serves authentic Neapolitan-style pizza besides ‘Zza Bar. I’ve always preferred a thin crust over the heavy, bready pizzas that you get served in pizza chains. But the light, fluffy Neapolitan crust, with a base just firm enough for you to pick up a piece, is something else entirely! Combine that with a few very fresh ingredients and lots (lots!) of cheese, and you have something really special. And because the oven is right there, you can watch your pizza being made fresh, and rise as it cooks in the oven.
Amazingly, the bread for the sandwiches is actually baked fresh for each order!
Besides pizza, ‘Zza Bar serves quite a few other things, too. Pastas, salads and sandwiches are also on the menu, all fresh and all incredibly flavourful. Amazingly, the ‘puccia’ bread for each sandwich is actually baked fresh for each order! In case you’re wondering, that only takes a few minutes.
And that brings me, finally, to the dessert. ‘Zza Bar has only two desserts on the menu, and they do both incredibly well. Their tres leches, a cake soaked in cream and condensed milk and topped with chocolate sauce, is great. But our preferred option, and one of the stand-outs of the entire menu, is the cheesecake topped with seasonal fruit.
This interesting-looking pizza started as an experiment and hasn’t made it to the menu yet. But ask and you shall receive, and you shall be glad to have received. Because with its crisp crust and soft base, topping of a mixture of olives, mushrooms and other secret ingredients, and loads of cheese, this is one pizza whose equal you will not find in Hyderabad.
Veg ham sandwich
Despite what it sounds like, this sandwich isn’t vegetables with ham; it’s vegetarian ham. As a former carnivore, I can say this mock-ham (that owners Srini and Lien first experienced in a Buddhist monastery) mimics the real thing quite well. So if you’re a new vegetarian who’s trying to fight the craving for meat, this is a great option. Even otherwise, the salty mock-ham goes well with the crisp spinach, fresh tomato sauce, onions and cheese. Of course, all these are stuffed into your very own freshly baked bread.
If you like Italian food, chances are you’ve eaten cannelloni Florentine before. This one, though, comes across as a more authentic, home-style version of the ones you’ve probably eaten in fancy restaurants. Everything is rustic and generous, from the home-made tubes of pasta and the filling of spinach and ricotta cheese, to the loads of tangy in-house tomato sauce and chewy mozzarella cheese topping. If you’ve got a serious cheese craving, this one is for you.
Quinoa and cranberry salad
This light salad is the perfect balance for all the cheesy stuff you’ll probably eat while you’re here. The quinoa grains, shredded spinach (yes they love spinach at ‘Zza Bar, and so do we), nuts and sunflower seeds give the salad a great texture, and the dried cranberries and sweet-sour vinaigrette dressing give it just the right amount of tang. Great to relieve your guilt, or as a light meal on its own.
Seasonal fruit cheesecake
I think it’s safe to say that this is, by far, our most favourite unbaked cheesecake ever. It’s not dense and slightly dry like a lot of cheesecakes tend to be. Instead, it’s soft, rich and light (I know that sounds like a contradiction, but try it and you’ll see what I mean). And the seasonal fruit sauce on top contrasts perfectly with the salty biscuit-crumb base. There’s not much room for improvement on this one, if you ask me!
IQ’s eco-friendliness score: 4/5
Most people sit in the outdoor space when they eat at ‘Zza Bar. That means that, though the inside can be air-conditioned, it usually isn’t. Their oven is wood-fired, too, which means that it’s more emission-efficient than an electric one would be (think coal-fired power plants generating electricity, of which almost half is just lost in transmission).
There’s no plastic in their dine-in cutlery and crockery collection, and we got paper straws with our drinks the first time we went. The last time, we didn’t get any straws at all, which was great. That probably means they only give straws when people ask for them. The only downside is that their takeaway boxes are plastic, and are accompanied by plastic cutlery.
Getting to ‘Zza Bar
It’s pretty easy to get to ‘Zza Bar, but because its so small, it’s also pretty easy to miss. If you’re approaching from Banjara Hills Road no. 2, turn left at the Jubilee Hills check post and then right at the next traffic signal, on to Road no. 45. It’s about 300 metres down on the left, just before the bus stop (Tip: Start slowing down once you see the Fast Track car accessories shop on your left). If you’re approaching from the Filmnagar side, follow the road as it curves right past Journalist’s Colony, and then turn left at the traffic signal.
The bottom line
With some of the best pizza in town, a menu chock-full of fresh and flavourful offerings, and cheesecake that’s to die for, ‘Zza Bar ticks all the boxes for vegetarians. It even has mock-meat options for new-vegetarian guests with meat cravings. Seating is somewhat limited, and rainy weather or traffic jams might make the outdoor seating uncomfortable, while the glorious oven makes the indoors a little too warm. But if the weather and traffic permit sitting outdoors, then this little place is just right. And knowing that your meal is having less of a negative impact on the environment than it could have makes it even more special.